God only left one mantle of a prophet available. David was a prophet but he left a throne in place. Elijah’s mantle remains available because of the specific strategy of God to prepare The Lord a people who accurately anticipate what’s coming next. Samuel wasn’t really into the “prepare The Lord a people” thing.
I know I’m not supposed to criticize Samuel, but God did, so I will discuss what God pointed out in Samuel that needed maturing in order for Samuel to function in “kingdom come.” When the people demanded a king, God gave them one. Of course, God had kingdom leadership in mind all along, but the people were not mature enough for kingdom leadership. God started them with the leadership they deserved. Samuel took it personal.
“They have not rejected you, but Me.”
As good a leader as Samuel was, he missed the point of what the people were saying. It was clearly Samuel’s failure to provide a properly-prepared inheritor that brought the people to this place of rejecting God. Samuel’s leadership dysfunction reflected upon God because Samuel was His representative. Samuel was great with God but poor leading people.
As a fivefold ministry leader, Samuel would have graded pretty low because he wasn’t too good at preparing and positioning others to do the work of ministry. Samuel was mature but his leadership function immature. “None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground” because Samuel was functioning at personal prime, but his leadership was pitiful.
Prophets often internalize both their revelation and how people respond to it. They have a great relationship with God but a dysfunctional one with people. They start taking things personally that aren’t personal at all. They do this because of relational isolation. When in crisis, disappear and only come out of the cave when you’ve heard from God – well, that isn’t the only way to function prophetically! David was a prophet and he was world class at leadership.
In other words, leaders need relational sounding boards, especially when “they hear from God,” because they tend to live isolated from the human experience. When the human experience does impact their lives, they are unprepared to frame that experience properly and tend to internalize it the same way they do prophetic revelation. By the time they’ve massaged the experience through the prophetic process, it appears to be something other than what is really was. God speaks in code, but real life includes humanity – no code to decipher, no picture interpret, just humanity.
Not knowing what to do with the experience, prophets often let the thing get stuck in their craw. Like a sand speck in a clam, it layers up with prophetic protections until a rare pearl emerges called, “internalization.” Then, the prophet thinks he has acquired a treasure when, in fact, he has merely dealt with real life in a rather odd way. Pearls are actually the clam’s way of dealing with foreign objects it cannot digest.
Samuel’s leadership didn’t mature the people. Saul was a leader functioning in the same spiritual climate and conditions that Samuel had tolerated. In fact, Samuel’s leadership failure produced a cultural condition in which the people were so unprepared for The Lord that they reject God!
I know Samuel didn’t intend this, but he hasn’t been the only leader to produce an immature people unprepared for The Lord. Samuel was taking things too personally and doing so stems from having Eli as a father. (We could analyze that for quite a while, now couldn’t we?)
Samuel was a leader who achieved great personal maturity, function, integrity, and honor. As a leader, he wasn’t any better than Eli.